After Sunday's 24-22 loss to the Denver Broncos, we examined the team's performance using targeting points within two aspects of the defense and how poorly they played against the run in the first half and against the pass in the second.
One area we featured was the play of Rey Maualuga. A quick recap on Maualuga's afternoon goes like this:
Even with seven tackles on the day, Maualuga's performance was noticeably disappointing. Missed tackles, bad angles ruled the afternoon and when he did make a majority of his tackles, he was shedding off blocks long after the ball carrier broke the line of scrimmage for at least five-yard gain. For instance with 9:32 left in the first quarter, Maualuga angled into the wrong hole that opened a running lane over the middle for Willis McGahee to pick up 12 yards. During Denver's game-opening touchdown drive, the Broncos ran twice inside Cincinnati's three-yard line -- both times Maualuga was ineffective (and once he was blocked well into the endzone).
This doesn't account for two missed tackles that led to decent gains during Denver's 15-play drive that went 80 yards to score the game's first touchdown.
Mike Zimmer felt that the defense was so bad that on Monday, the defense conducted a brief walk-through during a day that's usually reserved for treating injuries, meetings and film reviews.
"I don't know who that team was," said Zimmer of his defense's play on Sunday.
One could argue that if player placement is the issue, then the biggest loss this defense suffered over the offseason is the loss of Dhani Jones, who is noted as a coaches extension on the field, putting players in their proper spots. As they do with every game, Pro Football Focus examined the game.
It may have eluded some people, but middle linebacker Rey Maualuga (-4.1) was taken off the field for three plays on Sunday. While it may have been because of an injury, if you were watch him the former USC Trojan on the 10 plays he played before he was taken out, you’ll understand why he had to come off the field. Not only did he manage to miss two tackles, but he was caught badly out of position with 9:32 left in the first quarter. Even though he returned shortly afterwards, he didn’t fair much better. Maualuga missed another tackle, and had little impact when a defender got their hands on him. We’ve seen him play much better than this and will be looking to see what happens with him in week three.
The issue of Rey Maualuga taking over as the team's middle linebacker has been on-going since the Bengals selected him in the second round of the 2009 NFL draft. Even after Mike Zimmer called Maualuga out as average after the 2010 season, the team felt he was ready to take on a more proactive roll as the team's middle linebacker.
That being said we're fully on-board with this being a rebuilding season, not just for the offense but the defense as well. But we also agree with Pro Football Focus; we're looking forward to see how he rebounds against the San Francisco 49ers.